Today starts the U18 European Championship of Division A in Vilnius/Lithuania. The tournament features the highly talented European 1992 generation and even if one of the biggest names in Enes Kanter will not be present, the level of this event will probably be among the best of the whole summer. A lot of Colleges and NBA teams will certainly be present over the next years as some clear-cut future NBA talent will be on the courts of Siemens Arena in Vilnius.
Group A (Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine)
Group A features the host and title favorite Lithuania against probably some of the weaker teams of the tournament. The Lithuanian team has the major part of the team together that dominated the U16 Tournament two years ago and is built around top-prospect Jonas Valanciunas in the middle. Together with Dovydas Redika, Vytenis Cizaukas has clear ambitions coming into this tournament.
We are satisfied with preparation and I think we have a really good team, even if more time to prepare the tournament would help. We will do everything in order to reach the best possible results. I think that France, Serbia and Turkey have very good teams that are always difficult to beat. Those teams are also my favorites for the title.
Poland will be an extremely interesting team to watch as the roster has the core of the highly-talented 1993 generation that won the Silver Medal of the U17 World Championship a few days ago. The Ukrainian team features some interesting players as well and has a clear leader in Vyacheslav Bobrov who saw already some minutes with Azovmash in the Ukraine League. Slovenia will be led by PG Jan Span and the team has recently finished 5th at the Future Stars Tournament in Poland where they lost to France, Poland and Spain.
Group B (Sweden, Latvia, France, Spain)
The Group B is totally undecided with the two usual powerhouses of Spain and France but on the other hand an ambitious Swedish team and Latvia that features some highly interesting 1993 born players in Ojars Silins and Kaspars Vecvagars together with the scorer Davis Bertans. Sweden comes to Lithuania with high hopes as the team has a lot of highly-talented 1993 born players mixed with their leader on the wing Viktor Gaddefors.
I am really satisfied with the preparation we had with our team. We have played good tournaments, especially the last two in England and Poland where we finished either 3rd or 4th. I don’t know what we can reach in Lithuania as all the teams are so good. That’s why it is so difficult also to predict who will win the tournament.
France is a bit in a difficult situation as the team misses a multitude of talented players but with this reduced group, Mathis Keita and his team mates have come up with interesting results in the preparation. Head Coach Philippe Ory is confident on his players and the team from France is always at least a quarter-finals candidate. Spain improved through out the preparation and comes to Lithuania as winner of the Future Stars Tournament in Poland. The lack of a really dominant inside player may be a problem to go for the title but the team features so much scoring talent in Miki Servera or the 1993 born Jaime Fernandez.
Group C (Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria, Italy)
Group C looks also very open as Turkey will come to Lithuania without their #1 option Enes Kanter but with a back-court loaded with scoring power. Can Korkmaz and Safak Edge showed during the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament that they know how to put the ball in the basket but the team also missed the necessary leader to make them win. Russia set a big exclamation mark when they beat U17 Team USA in the preparation phase a few weeks ago and the team of coach Sergey Skorochkin may be one of the surprises in Lithuania as it features a highly interesting mix of 1992 and 93 born talents. Andrey Loginov is also one of the players that may be able to stop Jonas Valanciunas from Lithuania and Dimitry Kulagin showed already last summer that he is a player to watch on the PG spot. Italy will be led by Alessandro Gentile who played already the U20 European Championship in Croatia. He will get the support of Giovanni Pini in the paint but the Squadra Azzurra needs to play without the long-time injured Tommaso Ingrosso. The Bulgarian team will know their Italian opponents pretty well as three of their players currently play in Italian teams. The biggest name will probably be Pavlin Ivanov.
Group D (Serbia, Croatia, Germany, Greece)
A highly interesting group will be the last one with nearly all kind of results possible and no clear favorite. Serbia is always considered as a favorite but the 1992 generation seems a bit less talented but the inside power of Nikola Siladi and Nemanja Besovic combined with the scoring talent of Bogdan Bogdanovic will be interesting to follow. Croatia comes to Lithuania with the Future Stars London trophy where they were lead by 1994 born Dario Saric who showed also his talent with the team in Mannheim this spring. Germany will miss two key inside players in Bill Borekambi and Daniel Theis but the presence alone of Philipp Neumann makes them an interesting team to watch. The late addition of US based Dennis Kramer will give them additional size and three-point shooting as well. The Greek team features the highly-talented and versatile Linos Chrysikopoulos and a lot will depend on what the other players on the team can bring to the court in order to support him.
Europeanprospects.com will be present in Lithuania for the last three days of the tournament. You can follow all the games with Live Scores on the official Website of the tournament.
The first five teams qualify for the U19 World Championship to be played in 2011 in Latvia. With Latvia among the top 5 teams, the 6th placed team will also go to participate in next year’s top event.